Copenhagen Consensus Report Argues For Expanding Family Planning Programs In ‘High-Fertility’ Countries

As part of a series of Slate articles highlighting issues being examined by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the center, examines the implications of population growth on development indicators. In a research paper released on Thursday “for Copenhagen Consensus 2012, Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania looks at sub-Saharan African nations that, among high-fertility countries, make the dominant contribution to world population growth,” he notes, adding, “‘High-fertility’ countries today account for about 38 percent of the 78 million people that are added annually to the world population, despite the fact that they are home to only 18 percent of the population.”

“Family-planning programs that facilitate a decline in fertility and a reduction in population growth rate would seem to be potentially highly beneficial interventions that should be expanded,” but “as Kohler outlines, this conclusion has been subject to a long-standing and sometimes heated debate, often questioning the very basic pillars of this deduction,” Lomborg writes. “Kohler draws on recent estimates to find that expanding family-planning services to all women with unmet needs — 215 million women — would require an … annual expenditure of … $6.7 billion,” according to Lomborg. “The benefits are large,” he continues, noting that Kohler found that subsequent reduced maternal and child mortality, increased female education, employment and earning, and improved economic growth “could result in benefits worth about $90 to $150” for every dollar spent. Lomborg concludes, “Kohler’s analysis adds further weight to the argument that family planning programs are a good economic investment, especially in light of continued population growth in the world’s worst-off countries” (5/3).